Prerequisites of Spiritual Sadhana


Sri Swami Sivananda

This article is a chapter from the book Sadhana.

I will dwell here upon the main qualifications necessary for launching upon the actual Sadhana. All the ancient saints, seers, men of God that have had intuitive experience of the Truth have been declaring to all mankind the great bliss, the vast power and knowledge that can be experienced if only man would turn from sensual sinful life and strive for the higher divine life. Yet we see today that man is as much immersed—if not more—in worldliness as he was centuries ago and the state of mankind is as apathetic and lethargic towards these questions of a life in the spirit as it was at the beginning of creation. Why is it that in spite of the clarion call of very many great seers, the confident assurance of the scriptures, the repeated experiences of man himself in failing miserably to attain happiness amidst external physical world, man is again and again being deceived? Why is it that man has not yet learnt to take to Sadhana? We read hundreds of spiritual books; we attend discourses; we convene gatherings as during the Sadhana Week. After years of intense study of spiritual hooks, contact with saints, after hearing these things again and again, yet man does not actually do anything. Because he does not have a deep and abiding faith in the admonitions of saints, in the scriptures, in the words of those who have trodden the path and attained bliss. His faith in external objects is something more real to him. If only man did really believe in these great ones he would certainly be induced to act up to their words. It is this basic lack of faith in man that is at the root of his failure to do Sadhana. Sadhana is necessary; but man will not do it because he does not really believe in its necessity. Man believes that for his happiness money is required. Man believes that if only he will get a  good job he will get money. Man believes that if he has good college education he will get this job; and through that money; and through that, happiness that he desires. Believing in it every parent sends his child to school and from a young age he is taught to believe that if he passes his examinations creditably he will get a good job, salary, motor cars, etc. The child believes in the words; he studies, passes the examinations and the remuneration he expects comes. Because he had a feeling, because he thought all these things were necessary he desired them. But ultimately, of course, it is the unfortunate experience of all men that this happiness they get is mixed up more than tenfold with pain. Man gets an anna of happiness and with it fifteen annas of pain, suffering, for which he did not bargain when he first set about searching for this happiness. Thus if man has faith in spiritual course of action he will act up to it. Lacking this faith he does not do Sadhana. If a man has to take up to Sadhana, if he really wants to obtain this bliss which is not mixed with pain, he will certainly have to repose faith. It may be called blind faith; but there is nothing like blind faith because all things on this earth go upon faith only and if man lives today it is on account of mutual trust and faith. A ten rupee note is a piece of paper and it is because you have the Asoka Chakra ensign on it, it will immediately get you whatever you want if presented at the bazaar. Because you have the faith in this piece of paper. If you do not have faith upon this paper, you would not have the confidence to start from the house; you would never be sure of reaching your destination. The doctor gives you a prescription on a piece of paper. If you do not have faith you will not take it from him. But the faith upon which all society is based makes you take his word, pay him money for his advice, take it to the chemist, get the medicine and you are cured. The entire social structure and order upon which mankind smoothly runs is based upon faith and trust. When you are prepared to put faith in mankind which is but a passing phenomena—those in whom you put your faith are dying before your eyes—when you are prepared to put faith upon these passing entities like mankind, why should you not put faith upon the very Creator of these things? Having first of all full faith in the words of the seers and known the necessity of Sadhana, what is the procedure, what is to be done next? You may have faith. Thousands of well-wishers may suggest good lines of action for your welfare and you may believe in them fully. If you do not put them into practice—if you do not begin to translate them into function—they will ever remain plans in the blueprint stage. If you don’t set about procuring money, cement, bricks, various other building materials and labour, the whole construction will remain in blue-print only. It will not see the light of the day. After faith in Sadhana comes practice. You must set about doing. No question of believing. A belief must become an act. One must set about doing. Having reposed faith in the words of sages, you begin doing Sadhana. Once you commence Sadhana, the next important thing you should bear in mind is you should not easily give it up. Perseverance is of the utmost importance. All processes in this universe are gradual. They have got stages. Agriculture is gradual; it takes twelve months. You have to sow, water the field, cut out the weeds, and in course of time you will be able to take the grain. If you are impatient—if you sow the seed and as soon as it sprouts forth; you take it out—it will perish. If you want to go through all the stages and attain the end you must have patience and perseverance. A man who wants to lift a vessel from the well-water when the vessel is full, he begins to draw up the water upon the wheel; suddenly if he stops pulling, the vessel will fall back into the well. He will have to proceed with the drawing motion until the vessel is at the top. Persevere till the ultimate fruit is obtained. You must not give up. There is another important point that in spiritual Sadhana, man does not merely have to contend with the positive force. There are active forces that oppose him, that actually assail him and pull him down. Herein comes the necessity of the fourth important weapon in the hand—that is fortitude. While persevering, man has to have a little courage not to be easily shaken by the obstacles that assail him. He will have to brave the storm and proceed in spite of the difficulties and adverse conditions trying to cow him down, to push him off from the path of Sadhana. It is with fortitude he refuses to be discouraged and, relying upon the inner Self, he proceeds with the Sadhana. Ultimately he will attain the ideal for which he has been born upon earth; and while going through this process he will have to see that he keeps in mind the necessity of giving minute attention to all the small details upon the path because in every process all such small details of the process are to be attended to carefully. If any small detail is left out, thinking that it is superfluous he will find that ultimately he has lost valuable time and labour. This delays progress. It is the conglomeration of small things that go up to achieve high ideals.

Therefore with firm faith, practical application, perseverance, careful attention to even small details and fortitude in trials, you must set foot and proceed on the path of Sadhana.

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